In The Negev Desert, Six Senses Shaharut Is The Ultimate Experience Of Withdrawal – ADC
There is an enchanting quality to Israel’s Negev Desert that exerts an indefinable pull—with its lavish sunsets, rocky plains, and muscular ridges of chalky limestone, it is a place full of beauty and peace. In the far south of this is Six Senses Shaharut, a luxury sustainable resort in the tiny desert community of Shaharut, designed by Tel Aviv practice Plesner Architects. Nestled into a dramatic cliff with sweeping views of the desert, the tranquil escape invites visitors to escape the world and reconnect with themselves. Earlier this fall, we traveled to Israel to experience this unmissable body-and-soul retreat ourselves.
We arrive at Six Senses Shaharut from Tel Aviv in the late afternoon, after a four-hour drive through the Negev desert. Flights to Ramon airport conveniently connect the place to the Israeli capital in less than an hour, but getting to the resort by road is part of the experience—you journey through small settlements and timeless terrains steeped in history, witnessing incredible natural transitions along the way, as piles of limestone become long hills, small valleys in wave-like lines, and rock-strewn flats. Upon arrival, we are greeted by camels lounging in the setting sun, their humps and long eyelashes jostling for our attention. As electric dune buggies (a fascinating mixture between golf carts and off-road vehicles) take us up a steep road, the desert slowly opens in front of us. Atop the hill, immersed in the almost lunar landscape, is the resort with its half-hidden sunken rooms and facilities built into the cliffs. Up there, the spectacular backdrop of the Arava Valley below and the granite Edom mountains in the distance immediately beg for eyes and emotions.
Placed delicately in its context across 46 acres, the resort is a feat of engineering which took over a decade to complete. Here, past and present merge in a unique and extraordinary symbiosis. The structure is a modern interpretation of nomadic structures inspired by the Nabataeans—an ancient Arab Bedouin community who specialized in carving their capital city Petra into the rocky cliffs of nearby Jordan, and occupied this area over 2,000 years ago. Built from local sandstone rocks and pigments similar to those of these ancient farmers and traders, the place is a fascinating ode to the Negev Desert and its lengthy geological history. The architecture harnesses the topography of the site, as well as local materials and regional crafts like limestone walls, ceramics, and pergolas. As we stroll around the complex before we check in for a light bite, we encounter warm and soft spaces at every turn—from walkways to contemplative courtyards, to restaurants with panoramic terraces; all complementing the natural hues and textures of the sparse, dusty landscapes around them.
Constructed from rough and rustic stone, timber, and plaster, the resort’s 60 outward-facing suites and villas with private pool are perfectly integrated into the desert. Peeking out from the stony terrain, they are divided into suites, panorama suites, and pool suites—each with 46 square meters, outdoor space, and views—and panorama pool villas of over 100 square meters. For larger groups, a three-bedroom private reserve of over 300 square meters, with an outdoor living and cooking area, a pool, and a private spa, is the epitome of a nature retreat. We are given a panorama suite whose refined simplicity is instantly blissful. Large and tasteful, it is meticulously designed to align the natural topography outside. The sense of the desert is reflected in the interiors, with sandy-inspired hues and carefully sourced furniture in wood, gently contrasted by copper accents inspired by the colors of the Edom mountains, rich Bedouin-inspired fabrics, and brass-like fixtures in the bathroom. A nomadic spirit bolsters the overall design, with decorative plates, custom tapestries and wall hangings created by artists and ceramicists from nearby desert villages. An exception to the rule is the bed, which is appointed with pure-white Hanse sheets and duvets that promise a restful night.
Days at Six Senses Shaharut start at the Midian, the resort’s main restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the vast desert below. Here, the mouthwatering and beautifully presented breakfast spread surpasses our expectations. From classic Israeli dishes to eggs, cheeses, meats, breads, sweets, and local fruits and vegetables, all food is made from local, organic ingredients and draws from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culinary traditions. Rested and reinvigorated, our mornings are spent in and around the striking panoramic pool overlooking the Jordan mountains, lounging on sunbeds with richly decorated pillows and towels, inviting for endless moments of indulgence. Hours seem to gently merge into one another; tranquility is broken off only occasionally, with visits to the resort’s world-class Spa—the real showboat here. With a Six Senses signature treatments and wellness program menu, the full-immersion spa experience includes saunas, hammam steam rooms, an indoor pool, treatment rooms, and an excellent gym with views of the Negev desert.
At Six Senses Shaharut, the world may seem on pause, but it’s sprinting. Breaking off the rhythm of slowness that lingers in the air, a programme of engaging on-site attractions designed to reconnect with the natural world awaits us in the afternoons. From camel caring sessions at the Earth Lab, to meditation sessions, or concoctions making at the Alchemy Bar for individually blended scrubs and masks, days can be filled with more than the sights and sounds of the desert. Arranged by the staff are also off-property adventures, including jeep tours, dune boarding, mountain biking, camel rides, desert hikes, astrologer-led stargazing sessions, and day trips to Kibbutzs and to Eilat—the resort town on the Red Sea, just an hour drive south from Shaharut.
It doesn’t take an expert to understand that the resort combines transformative wellness experiences and adventures with unwavering sustainability. Committed to the environment and its community, it complies to a high level of sustainability, with its team going to great lengths to repurpose leftovers, conserve energy, avoid water waste, and inspire guests like ourselves to think more mindfully about human impact on nature. Much of this is learned on the sustainability tour of the organic vegetable and herb garden—a natural sight to behold, which supports the aim of self-sustained food on the resort, supplying the compound’s kitchen and revitalizing traditional oasis agriculture.
If attention to detail and sustainability distinguish the place, then organic food enhances the experience. Harvested, when possible, from the resort’s garden or sourced from local farmers and the nearby kibbutzim, the fresh and seasonal produce is translated into progressive ethnic cuisine with Mediterranean and Israeli influence that engages all of the senses—and keeps our appetite piquing. In the company of white wine, our meals are enjoyed at the anchor restaurant Midian, whose evolving degustation dinner menu brings forth the region’s best. Other dining options include light bites and Middle Eastern-style tapas at the relaxed outdoor mezze space Edom View, or at the groovier Jamillah. Here, after dinner, the music-laden bar is another feast for the senses—watching Jordan’s mountains turning their granite peaks from pink to a deep red sheen in the evening sun, the feeling of peace is as heavy as the custom-infused liquor, sinking into the body and slowing the mind.
As the sun sets and the warm sunshine gives way to gusts of wind, we sit on the bean bag-like chairs in the resort’s amphitheater. The silence of the place is instantly enigmatic; watching the endless starred skies, you cannot but feel tiny amid such an expansive scale of nature. Like many, we have come to Six Senses Shaharut to escape the bustling city life in exchange for scenery; but here, the sensory experience is transcending—more than a retreat, this is a place where eyes and hearts can fully sense the greatness and quietude of nature. As the day ends and the desert gets lost to the blackness of the night, the only sound that rips through the stillness is the dune buggy approaching for our goodnight ride back to our room.